Well, AEW fans, you’ve waited, and you’ve waited, and you’ve waited some more… and it finally happened.
After months and months of teases and wondering when it would happen, we have officially seen the in-ring debut of Hook.
As social media tends to make happen, things like hyperbole, trolling and the urge to have the most “hot takes” possible become front and center. Leading up to Hook’s debut on Rampage, you saw a bunch of those takes. Some were complete sarcasm and simply looking for responses, but others were based more in that person’s honesty. They were everywhere. People were predicting a phenomenal debut. Others were predicting title victories for Hook in 2022.
After a four-minute victory over Fuego Del Sol… surprise, surprise… the hyperbole, trolling and the urge to have the hottest of takes are flying all over social media.
I’m not here for that.
What I am here for is to call it like I see it.
I watched the Hook debut match. In fact, in preparing for this column, I’ve watched the match five times now. Each time I watched it, I looked for something different.
The kid is good. He’s got the potential to be really good.
No hyperbole. It simply isn’t necessary.
It wasn’t the greatest in-ring debut in wrestling history. He isn’t in line for an AEW World Title shot in the next few months, or at least he shouldn’t be.
I understand that the wrestling “war” means a lot of you are taking sides with those wild takes. This guy is the BEST WRESTLER IN THE WORLD. That match was the GREATEST OF ALL TIME. That’s cool and all, but folks, you’re not helping Hook whatsoever by hyping him up the way that a lot of you have been. You’re going to have people checking his debut out, expecting a combination of Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Kurt Angle in their primes because of the way people talk about him. Then, they watch the match and see a 22-year-old making his in-ring debut, and what happens? Disappointment. Not because it was bad, but because it wasn’t a combination of Eddie Guerrero, Shawn Michaels, Ric Flair and Kurt Angle in their primes.
There was a lot to like about Hook’s debut. He was very fluid and smooth in his movements. The moment didn’t seem too big for him. He got to show that he isn’t as small as he looks when he’s standing next to people like Brian Cage and Powerhouse Hobbs. There was a nice mixture of his father’s wrestling style and a Judo-based offense.
His trainers have done a very good job of helping him prepare for that debut. There is no denying that whatsoever.
If I’m going to be completely honest, though, I don’t want to see Hook wrestle again for a while.
Yeah, yeah, yeah… I know. Momentum and all that.
I’m just comparing Hook’s debut to what we saw with Dominik Mysterio’s debut at SummerSlam last year. Dom’s debut had people buzzing, and he looked really impressive against Seth Rollins, albeit in a losing effort. Immediately, people were raving about how good Dom looked at such an early stage of his career, and they began talking about how good he could be with more “seasoning” and experience.
If you’ve been reading my columns for a bit, you might remember my thoughts on Dominik when he made his debuted. I really enjoyed his match with Rollins. Dom looked like a veteran in the ring, as he had clearly been training for years and learning from his father. At the same time, I said that Dominik should step away for a bit and continue his training. He could come back down the road and be even better, continuing his career and slowly transitioning into being a full-time WWE Superstar.
Obviously, that didn’t happen. Instead, Dom stuck around. He would compete in a match against Seth Rollins and/or Buddy Murphy eight times over the next six weeks, seemingly wearing out his welcome and causing a lot of people to grow tired of him. Now, Dom has wrestled 40-some televised matches in 2021, including a two-month reign (with his dad) as a Smackdown Tag Team Champion, and there are a ton of people who simply want Dominik to go away.
I feel the same way about Hook after his debut. It was a match that I really enjoyed. He looked like a veteran that had been training for years and learning from his father. Now that the debut match is out of the way, I think he should be kept away for a while, at least as far as matches are concerned. I really dig the role he plays within Team Taz. He can stick around and continue doing what he had been doing. I have no problem with that. There’s just an aura around him right now, and I think some of that can go away each time AEW trots him out there for a match against random opponents right now, especially if it happens regularly.
Leave the people wanting more. His debut match happened on the December 10th episode of Rampage, so hold off for at least the rest of 2021. Then you can put him in a match against someone on the level of, say, Griff Garrison or even one of the members of The Dark Order. Have the match in January or February, and go from there. If he continues improving, and people keep reacting to his work, then you can start to have him working more matches. Put him on episodes of Dark, Dark: Elevation, Dark: Side Of The Moon, Dark: Knight and Nickelodeon’s Are You Afraid Of The: Dark so that he can work with independent wrestlers from all over the country.
It’s difficult to gauge how much of a “draw” he is right now. Even with all the internet hype for Hook’s debut, last week’s episode of Rampage pulled in 503,000 viewers, which was only up 4,000 from the previous week. The key 18-49 demographic was the second-lowest in Rampage history. On the AEW YouTube account, his debut is currently sitting at 855,000 views after less than five days, which is very strong for an AEW video. Those numbers would just about make it a top ten video for the account over the past month, and obviously, the views will only continue coming in as the days go by. You can’t really fault him for what’s going on with the Rampage numbers, as the show’s viewership is tanking and tanking hard, largely due to the terrible timeslot it has. 10pm on a Friday night is just asking for people to check things out on YouTube and social media instead of tuning in to watch.
We can say that Hook is selling merch, though. Every week since CM Punk returned to the business, he has been the top t-shirt seller for ProWrestlingTees. Until now. Punk has the second and third best-selling shirts for the week, but the top spot now belongs to Hook. What does this mean?!? Who knows?!?
Look… I’m glad that Hook has been a popular topic of discussion over the last several days. It’s awesome that the wrestling business has someone new on the scene that could very well turn out to be a huge star one day. As I’ve said, I enjoyed Hook’s debut and I do see big things in his future if all the pieces fall into place. I’m just asking some of you to pump the brakes a bit. He didn’t change the game, and it wasn’t the greatest debut of all-time. Stop laying it on so thick, even if you’re doing so in jest, because you’re doing him no favors at all.
Oh, and two more requests, while I have you here.
One, if you’re a grown man referring to yourself as a “Hooker” because of your Hook fandom, throw yourself down a flight of stairs. Just… stop.
Two, if you watched Hook’s debut and all you can talk about is how much he needs a haircut, light yourself on fire. When you say things like that, you’re sending out certain signals to the world that I’m not sure you’re quite intending to send out.
I’d love to hear what all of you thought about Hook. Talk to me about his debut match, his look, his character so far, what you think his future holds, etc. As always, hit me up in the comments section below, or on Twitter (@HustleTheSavage), and let me know what’s on your mind.
Weekly Power Rankings
- Lucha Brothers vs FTR: This was the fifth time these two teams have squared off in a two-on-two tag contest, and it could be argued that this was the best of the bunch. I’ve said it about this feud before, but you would struggle to find two tag teams who have in-ring styles that are as far in the opposite direction of each other as these two. There are times when opposite styles can hurt matches, but that isn’t the case with FTR and the Lucha Brothers. They continue to entertain me.
- FTR Showing Up At RoH Final Battle: Big week for Cash Wheeler and Dax Harwood. After The Briscoes defeated Matt Taven and Mike Bennett at Final Battle to win the RoH Tag Team Titles, the lights would go out, and FTR would be in the ring when the lights came back on. It continued the social media feud between The Briscoes and FTR, and the teams would brawl to a huge pop. We still don’t know when and where we’ll see them have a match, but it’s starting to become a safe bet that it will be with AEW at some point. I’m all for it.
- Big E vs Bobby Lashley: Based on the pre-match stipulation, you knew that Lashley would win somehow, putting him in the WWE Title match at Day 1, but the match itself was still a lot of fun. There’s a lot on the line when these two face off, and they wrestle like it. I like the addition of Lashley to the Day 1 match. Added star power is always good, but WWE does Triple Threat and Fatal Four-Way matches really well. E, Lashley, Kevin Owens and Seth Rollins are going to tear it up.
- Grayson Waller: He got huge heat last week by attacking Johnny Gargano during Gargano’s farewell speech to the NXT Universe. Could he follow it up with more momentum a week later? Why, yes. Yes, he could. He was able to cut a good promo and keep getting a ton of heat. The fans really dislike him for what he did, and it’s time for NXT to get serious about pushing him. On top of everything, it almost seems like the Waller stuff is leading to some sort of in-ring return for Wade Barrett (or Woi Bar-ruh, for longtime readers of my columns), with how much Waller is verbally attacking Barrett and Vic Joseph.
- CM Punk Heeling It Up: Remember when it was revealed that Punk was returning to the business and we were waiting to see him show up in AEW for the first time? A lot of folks were expecting the old switcheroo where Punk’s music would hit, the Chicago crowd would go ballistic, and then MJF would be the person to walk out to mega heat. Obviously, that didn’t happen. Fast forward four months, and we got a switcheroo of the switcheroo. This time, it was MJF’s music hitting in MJF’s hometown, but it was Punk who walked out to mega heat. Punk would then continue to heel on the crowd by repeatedly ripping on their NHL team. It clearly wasn’t a heel turn, and was just a bit of fun for Punk in MJF’s hometown, but it was still enjoyable. The people involved showed a ton of smarts here, too. They knew MJF’s music would get a pop and that Punk could work heel a bit. Imagine if MJF’s music got the usual boos and the crowd popped huge for Punk like they do in every other city. The whole segment would not have worked. AEW continues to show that they at least know and understand their audience.
- Smackdown’s Opening Segment With Brock Lesnar, Paul Heyman & Sami Zayn: Layers. Like an onion. More fun stuff with Brock and Sami, as Lesnar continues to shine as a face. Then, you add Paul Heyman to the mix, where he was basically able to turn Brock back into a killer with his old introduction of the guy… all while Roman Reigns was away… and things are getting interesting.
- The Entrants For PWG’s Battle Of Los Angeles Tournament So Far: Jonah Rock, Alex Shelley, Black Taurus, Lio Rush, Daniel Garcia, Kevin Blackwood, and now, Jack Cartwheel. We aren’t even close to seeing the entire list of entrants for the upcoming BOLA tournament, but it’s quite the loaded roster already. I love it.
- Jonathan Gresham vs Jay Lethal: I know a lot of people were disappointed that Lethal was the wrestler sent by AEW to take Bandido’s place in the Final Battle main event after Bandido tested positive for COVID and had to be removed from the match. That’s fine. Folks were excited about someone like Bryan Danielson being sent over, especially with Danielson’s RoH history. Gresham and Lethal made sense as what could very well be the last match Ring Of Honor ever puts on, though. Their work together, as foes and as tag partners, has dominated the RoH scene for nearly four years. In that span, they’ve had some of the best matches the company has put out. As a last-minute replacement, Lethal worked out really well, and the two had yet another really good match.
- RK-Bro vs The Usos vs The New Day: You knew the match would be good if it was given time, and it was. No surprise there.
- Hook: We’ll see how it goes from here.
- Shane Taylor vs Kenny King: A wild, chaotic Fight Without Honor at Final Battle. It really stood out on that card, and both men put in extra work.
- Cameron Grimes vs Duke Hudson: As always when Cameron Grimes is involved, I am legally and contractually obligated to mention the fact that he nearly broke my leg at an independent wrestling show a few years back. The feud between Grimes and Hudson just isn’t working for me, and I would really like to see Grimes moved on to something bigger and better, but at least this was a good match. With the No Holds Barred stipulation, and with the official bald reveal for Hudson, it sure seems like the end of the feud, but we’ll see.
- Bron Breakker vs Roderick Strong: I wasn’t expecting Breakker to win this match cleanly. With The Diamond Mine involved, and with Tommaso Ciampa around, I figured we would get some sort of shenaniganery, but Bron went over, and looked good doing so. It’s becoming more and more clear that Bron Breakker is the next NXT Champion, and it probably won’t happen any later than whenever NXT has their next Takeover-style show.
- Riho vs Jamie Hayter: I worry for Riho’s future health. Some of the bumps and beatings she takes are insane for any woman, let alone someone who is listed as not even weighing 100 pounds.
- Trent & Sue Are Back: Sure, it’s good to see Trent make his return to AEW after missing several months due to spinal surgery, but let’s be honest… seeing Sue make her return was what really made this one special. As the baddest member of New Japan’s CHAOS stable, I eagerly anticipate Sue going after titles soon. Watch your backs, Shingo Takagi and “Hangman” Adam Page.
This Week’s Playlist: “Plentiful (Originals)” by Alicia Keys & Pusha T… “Billions (Originals)” by Alicia Keys… “Come For Me (Unlocked)” by Alicia Keys, Khalid & Lucky Daye… “Rapper Estates” by Rick Ross & Benny The Butcher… “Made It Out Alive” by Rick Ross & Blxst… “Outlawz” by Rick Ross, Jazmine Sullivan & 21 Savage… “Richer Than I Ever Been” by Rick Ross… “Mares De Miel” by Alejandro Sanz… “Mary, Did You Know?” by Sons Of Serendip… “Plug Addicts” by RZA & Flatbush Zombies… “SIDEWAYS” by Jack Kays & Travis Barker… “Killing Me Softly” by The Fugees… “Ex-Factor” by Lauryn Hill… “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” by Lauryn Hill… “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” by Maxwell… “Fortunate” by Maxwell… “Charlene” by Anthony Hamilton… “You’re The Only One” by Eric Benet… “Breakin’ My Heart (Pretty Brown Eyes)” by Mint Condition… “You Don’t Have To Hurt No More” by Mint Condition… “What Kind Of Man Would I Be” by Mint Condition… “If You Love Me” by Mint Condition… “Fabulous” by Jaheim… “Finding My Way Back” by Jaheim… “My Valentine” by Carl Thomas